Little Black Pearl celebrates 25 years of arts, music, and culture at Pearlfest | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Little Black Pearl celebrates 25 years of arts, music, and culture at Pearlfest 

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click to enlarge Avery Sunshine, Lizz Wright, Robert Glasper, Nona Hendryx, Terri Lyne Carrington

Avery Sunshine, Lizz Wright, Robert Glasper, Nona Hendryx, Terri Lyne Carrington

Courtesy of Pearlfest

Little Black Pearl (LBP) was founded in 1994 by Monica Haslip, who began inviting neighborhood youth to gather at her south-side home to learn about art, community history, and empowerment. Since then, the organization has grown into an essential Chicago cultural institution that provides a variety of arts, culture, and entrepreneurship programs for youth, families, and adults throughout Kenwood, Oakland, Bronzeville, Woodlawn, and beyond. Today, LBP’s Art & Design Center is based in a 40,000-square-foot facility on 47th Street, which also houses the organization’s ­tuition-free CPS Options high school, the Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy (LBPA). In 2015, LBP also launched Pearlfest, a free lakefront music and ­culture festival. This year’s Pearlfest celebrates the organization’s 25th anniversary with a solid lineup of R&B and jazz artists, including jazz drummer, composer, and longtime LBP supporter Terri Lyne Carrington, who became the first woman to win the Grammy for best jazz instrumental album with 2013’s Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue. Capping the night (and hosting the whole thing) is legendary singer Nona Hendryx, whose boundary-­pushing and ­commanding presence has made her a sought-­after collaborator in pop, rock, and funk for more than 50 years. Her live performances showcase her range, mixing up songs from her girl-group days with Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles (which morphed into the ­glammy funk trio Labelle in the 70s) and the downtown art-rock, dance-pop, and experimental sounds she’s explored in her solo career (in 2017 she released a Captain Beefheart covers album with guitarist Gary Lucas). Pearlfest’s other headliners, after a full day of workshops and local performers, are Atlanta singer-songwriter Avery Sunshine, whose neosoul songs exuberantly explore the joy and complexities of middle-aged relationships; sophisticated, gospel-­tinged jazz ­singer Lizz Wright; and Black Radio pianist and ­producer Robert Glasper.  v

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